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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Interpreting the ballot

Uploaded: Oct 24, 2013

I received the Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet for the upcoming election in San Ramon about two weeks ago. There are two elections and two ballot measures. The one contested election is for City Council. There are four candidates running for two seats.

The Mayor is up for reelection too, but incumbent Mayor, Bill Clarkson, is running unopposed. That doesn't mean it is impossible for someone else to be elected. There is still an election and voters can write in another choice.

Mayor Clarkson told me that Parks Commissioner Bill Meine told him he received almost 300 write in votes for Mayor in the last election. I've been told by some of my "fans" that they wrote in my name for Mayor, but please don't! I have no desire to be Mayor. Bill's been a good Mayor and should have no trouble being reelected.

The competition for City Council is a little more heated. I predict Harry Sachs will be the front runner and will be easily elected. It isn't as easy to predict who the second winner will be. There are clearly some local issues that will bring out voters for Thomas von Thury and Rene Matsumoto, but incumbent Dave Hudson has name recognition and many supporters throughout the City.

The elections for Mayor and City Council are pretty straight forward but the two ballot measures might be confusing to some of you. Measure D would change City's elections from odd years, like this one, to even years like everyone else.

If it passes the next City Council election would be held in three years. That would give the two Candidates who win this year five years in office, and would add another year to the terms of current Councilmen Scott Perkins and Phil O'Loane. O'Loane and Perkins would be up for reelection in 2016.

Of course as Dave Hudson and Jim Livingstone pointed out, Measure D is completely unnecessary, since the Council could pass its own Ordinance to go to even years without a vote of the people. But Clarkson, Perkins, and O'Loane wouldn't go along with that and their majority voted to put Measure D on the ballot this year instead of simply voting themselves another year in office.

OK that seems to make sense, but what the heck is Measure E about. Well that's the one that makes a difference in going to even year elections. The Council can vote to move its election to even years without a public vote, but any change to the Mayor's terms must be approved by voters because it is a Charter Amendment.

If Measure D passes and Measure E doesn't we could wind up having City elections every year. So voting Yes on both Measure D and Measure E will move the City Council and Mayoral elections to 2016 and save the City at least $142,000, which is the difference between having our elections all by ourselves or sharing the cost of mailing ballots with other elections in Contra Costa County.

But those savings come at a cost. Unlike the typical fold-out ballot we get in even years, there are only four items on our odd year ballot – all of them pertaining to San Ramon. Voters, who want to vote on items relevant ONLY to San Ramon, will find only those in our current ballot. No clutter, no trying to figure out what is really hidden in some Contra Costa County Measures that sound good on the surface, but hide gotcha's down the road.

That's not to say those same measures and elections for Senate, Congress, Governor, and President won't be on the ballot in 2016, but will we? Should we be on the same ballot with all the rest of them? Or is it worth $142,000 every other year to have the ballot all to ourselves? Your choice, your vote, we'll see if Jim Livingstone is right and "you just don't get it," or maybe you do.

Comments

Posted by Lost My Vote, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Just received a Rene Matsumoto flier in the mailer. Main priority is to spend city reserves to purchase open space. No thank you. You lost my vote.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Lost,

I received the same flier. What's of more concern is that the two sitting Councilmembers, Scott Perkins and Phil O'Loane, and Mayor Clarkson, all endorsed Rene. Does that mean they would have a majority in favor of this idea. I hope not.

Phil took a dig at Dave Hudson. "Effective councilmembers listen to residents and talk with them, not at them." Yes, I'm afraid that describes Dave.

It's something I've criticized him about. Still I support Dave Hudson over Rene because he has the experience and knowledge that is important for San Ramon to retain. Dave also brings money into San Ramon and would not fritter it away on buffer zones around the city. We should not even consider using our reserves, which are our financial buffer around the City, to spend on anything that isn't an emergency. That is a very dangerous proposal.

About ten years ago we had a ballot measure to increase the Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) charged on hotel rooms. It did not pass. Jim Blickenstaff asked the Council to set aside an amount from the increase for purchasing open space around the City. I thought that was a reasonable request, but the Council turned it down.

We could put a measure to raise the TOT back on the ballot in 2014 and designate some of the funds raised to buy open space. We could go into partnership with East Bay Regional Parks on buying and maintaining this open space. They buy open space and retain it as parks and wilderness areas. This would be a better way to protect our open space without risking our reserves.

Roz


Posted by MLOliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

Lost,

I couldn't agree more. To consider the city's reserves as a "surplus" is unconscionable. The reserves are a protection for all of us, a savings account for a rainy day, so to speak. When the economy takes a turn for the worse, it should be there to get us through the difficult times so that police services, park maintenance, and other city services that are essential to our quality of life in San Ramon will be funded. It was announced the other day that AT&T is leaving San Ramon. There will be considerable loss of revenue if that building isn't filled up soon.

I am sad to see that three other council members apparently share that lack of vision. San Ramon can't afford another raid on the reserves such as happened in the early 2000s.

MLO


Posted by Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm

MLO - I don't think AT&T is leaving San Ramon (any faster than they have already since their peak). They are just selling the ownership of their building and leasing back the space they need from the new owner. This is common for a company with an owned facility that has excess space.

While on the finance topic... I would vote for the candidate that would apply "surplus funds" to paying down the debt the city carries for pension obligations it couldn't fund when the bill came due. We are far from out of the woods on getting to a break-even budget.


Posted by Longtime Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Nov 2, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Dave Hudson does not get my vote for a number of reasons, one in particular is that he is strongly in favor of HOV ramps at Norris Canyon, yet he knows there is a huge number of residents on the west side of I-680 that are opposed to the HOV ramps, yet Hudson fails to mention anything about his support for the HOV ramps in his campaign literature or on his website-----can it be that Hudson thinks the voters are that uninformed that he can avoid loosing a lot of votes by simply avoiding this very significant issue?---Hudson's actions speak loudly here. Also, Ms. Matsumoto has flip-flopped once already on the Norris C. HOV ramps & she says that she will still have to make up her mind in 2014 on the Executive Parkway HOV ramps. She is definately not getting my vote. Only Sachs and Von Thury are firmly opposed to all HOV ramp alternates, & they definately get my vote.


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